We emailed Art Buyers and Art Producers around the world asking them to submit names of established photographers who were keeping it fresh and up-and-comers who they are keeping their eye on. If you are an Art Buyer/Producer or an Art Director at an agency and want to submit a photographer anonymously for this column email: Suzanne.email@example.com
Anonymous Creative Director: I nominate Payam. Payam is awesome. Smart, fabulous eye, industrious and a wonder to work with. You should profile him.
Q: How many years have you been in business?
A: I entered the business in 2002 after graduating with a degree in Bio-Psychology and Sociology, and over several years had the good fortune to work with some of the great masters such as Albert and Norman Watson, Patrick DeMarchelier, Annie Leibovitz, Miles Aldridge, and Mark Abrahams. After assisting for some years, I was requested as a Lighting Director for large advertising, fashion and celebrity shoots from 2008 to 2012 and committed myself 100% to shooting my own work full-time thereafter.
Q: Are you self-taught or photography school taught?
A: During my years in NYC, I had the great fortune of working with world-renowned photographers as a first assistant, and credit a lot of my success to my exposure to various ways they approached their particular assignments and challenges therein.
I learned about charismatic lighting and keeping a cool head under fire (we literally had a 20x catch on fire above us on a shoot) at the Watson Studio, as much as I learned about controlling high key light and perspective with respect to beauty photography with Wolfgang Ludes. Everyday served as an opportunity for me to learn not only the technicality of photography, but also about the subtle nuances of psychology, diplomacy and language required to be a good photographer. This has been the best education any man could ever ask for.
Q: Who was your greatest influence that inspired you to get into this business?
A: I think that you have to be inspired and fall in love with your work and this business everyday, just as one would need to fall in love with their life partner every day so as not to strangle them to death ☺
My first influence would be my High School Biology teacher Fred Tunnicliffe. It’s ironic, because he really motivated me to take interest in Biology and want to become a doctor first and foremost. Fred however, taught me something that I loved more than anything; photography.
As time progressed I started paying close attention to Patrick DeMarchelier and Annie Leibovitz were the photographers who I hold responsible for triggering my almost psychiatric obsession with photography later on on in my teens and early 20’s. I could not believe my eyes when the day arrived that I was actually on set with them in NYC.
Q: How do you find your inspiration to be so fresh, push the envelope, stay true to yourself so that creative folks are noticing you and hiring you?
A: My downfall in my life has been my love for photography books. Norman Watson can be solely blamed for introducing me to this gateway drug and I hold him fully responsible for the financial ruin I find myself in. ☺ I fall in love with photography on a daily basis by obsessively devouring various forms of visual stimuli, from paintings of old, to fashion stories of Mario Testino and Peggy Sirota. The work of masters in cinema such as Stanley Kubrick, Federico Fellini, Luc Besson, Ridley Scott and Tarsem Singh have also had a huge impact on my visual story telling.
Q: Do you find that some creatives love your work but the client holds you back?
A: I have been very fortunate to be trusted to execute briefs based on the way I shoot. I have been lucky to work with creative directors and art buyers who trust in me, and with their collaboration, we have created wonderful work together.
Q: What are you doing to get your vision out to the buying audience?
A: I spend quite a lot of time researching and connecting with various agencies, and traveling to various states to do portfolio presentations. I have learned that creative teams and buyers love the opportunity to meet with me, not only to see my work, but also to see and know the person behind the lens, as I explain my approach, motivations and tell stories about how I created the photographs. One of the things I excel at is being self-deprecating, and as such I make people laugh; this adds a human element to an otherwise mundane experience. One CD at a large agency just told me that he does not like to go through agents and art buyers, because they dilute the communication and needs of his. He was grateful to have met me because we had a one on one and had conversations from the heart that in my opinion can only be done through interpersonal interactions.
I also maintain presence on all relevant web portals, send out newsletters with new work and travel schedules, and do quarterly printed campaigns.
Q: What is your advice for those who are showing what they think the buyers want to see?
A: While I think that it’s important to study where the business is headed, so that I can be relevant and fresh, it’s also important to refine and consistently improve one’s visual vernacular. I find that I excel at capturing whatever it is that I am working on so long as it’s authentic to who I am. Exercising and refining my work is what I strive to do every time I pick up the camera. I think it’s also important to keep an open mind, as I always ask creatives and buyers if they would like to see me develop any more of a specific area that I am shooting in my personal projects, and I then update them with new work as it is created.
Q: Are you shooting for yourself and creating new work to keep your artistic talent true to you?
A: I consistently strive to push myself and explore different approaches that help me to refine my work. Personal assignments happen to be the most interesting to me, not only because I have total creative freedom to express myself, but also because I have the opportunity to show clients what I am passionate about.
Q: How often are you shooting new work?
A: I work when I can to create new images that are contextually consistent on a larger and broader scale. I love collaborating with Creative Directors and Stylists to shoot some projects that they could not execute because of the limitations clients place on them.
Most recently, I met a wonderful team at a highly respected agency in San Francisco. In conversation with one of the CD’s, I agreed to photograph children in fashion for a pitch to an amazing clothing label. I suddenly found myself photographing kids, and fell in love with their innocence and found my inner child as I was given creative license to be one again. A month later, I was contacted by another very well known creative director, who had received one of my newsletters in which I had inquired about collaborating with him on any shoots that he may have wanted to execute. I had been waiting to work with him for the past six years, and my patience finally paid off. Were it not for patience, I would have jumped the Brooklyn Bridge long ago ☺
Payam is an editorial and advertising portrait photographer based in both Los Angeles and NYC. Known for his lighting, direction and ease on set, Payam facilitates a shooting experience where all subjects can have fun, play and express themselves genuinely. In his free time, Payam teaches effective communication through photography to underprivileged students and also practices Thai Massage and Vinyasa Yoga.
APE contributor Suzanne Sease currently works as a consultant for photographers and illustrators around the world. She has been involved in the photography and illustration industry since the mid 80s, after establishing the art buying department at The Martin Agency then working for Kaplan-Thaler, Capital One, Best Buy and numerous smaller agencies and companies. She has a new Twitter feed with helpful marketing information believing that marketing should be driven by a brand and not specialty. Follow her on twitter at SuzanneSease.